NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Goodyear 400
If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide. For driver picks and a full preview of the event, he also discussed this weekend's race on the latest NASCAR episode of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on FanDuel.
|Practice||Saturday, May 7th
10:30 a.m. EST
|Qualifying||Saturday, May 7th
11:05 a.m. EST
This year's Darlington throwback will be during Sunday afternoon, so the same schedule as last week is upon us.
Practice continues to be the most pivotal data with this next-gen car for daily fantasy. Last week's two dominant cars -- Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott -- were top-five in 10-lap average times during practice.
Darlington has extreme tire wear -- perhaps the most on the schedule. Therefore, put infinitely more stock into the 10-lap averages again this weekend than single-lap speeds. In fact, a lap time too fast early could indicate the driver isn't particularly experienced at saving their tires.
General Lineup Strategy
There are fewer laps this week (293) than last (400), but lap leaders will still be crucial to find.
Last fall, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson led a combined 302 of the 367 laps in the longer, 500-mile event. Those two were musts to cash in any format. Darlington is a narrow track, so passing -- especially for the lead -- can be a tricky proposition.
However, because of the famed Darlington stripe, drivers will have issues at this track. Many of the faster cars -- lacking that patience with tires described above -- could actually start closer to the back. We saw that last fall when Ross Chastain, Cole Custer, and Chris Buescher also cracked the perfect lineup from 23rd, 31st, and 34th on the grid, respectively.
Therefore, I do want a pair of cars that profile to lead laps at some point with the best combination of finish equity and place-differential upside possible. That's far easier said than done.
Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations were included.
As a great indicator of overall speed, MLT Rank is the driver's average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend's. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Bristol (Spring)
2022 Richmond (Spring)
2022 Fontana (Spring)
For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance to lead the race at any point.
For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to finish in terms of potential to finish inside the top-15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.
Jim's simulations are huge into Kyle Larson ($14,000), and a pair of second-place runs here last season have Larson as the top driver in the salary pool. However, as discussed last week, Larson just doesn't have the same speed in 2022. He's carried fast weekend practice times into duds on race day, including a spin last week in Dover. I'll be underweight barring something spectacular in practice.
Even though his crew chief Chris Gabehart is on vacation due to last week's lost wheel, Denny Hamlin ($12,500) had the best hotrod in Dover before the wheel issue and an on-track incident. Given he's a four-time Darlington winner and led 146 laps last fall, he's an easy choice for the top overall driver in my rankings.
I'm all in with the sims on Ross Chastain ($11,500). Chastain finished third here last fall in Chip Ganassi Racing equipment, but now, Chastain pilots what has to be the current championship favorite for Trackhouse Racing. Chastain led 86 laps last week at a Dover track that hasn't been kind to him historically, so he's hard to deny at a circuit where he had a couple of near-wins in the Xfinity Series.
With just five laps led at Dover last week, I just can't turn to Martin Truex Jr. ($13,500) at this time. Truex led 248 laps in a dominant win last spring here, but he's consistently been short on speed in 2022. He's led just 102 laps after leading at least 800 in six straight seasons. That's not a resume of a driver that's the second-highest slotted one in terms of salary.
Ryan Blaney ($10,500) could be in for another rough week at a second straight race track that's less than stellar for him. Blaney has cracked the top-10 spots just once in nine tries at Darlington, and he's led just 17 total laps. I'd have a hard time trusting him without blazing practice times.
This week's median lap time rank comes from three tracks with heavy tire falloff and low grip. It should be no surprise that two dirt guys, Tyler Reddick ($8,800) and Christopher Bell ($8,500) are tied at the top of the ranks. Both, like Kyle Larson, profile to be low-grip aces that can run well at Darlington. Both failed to score a top-10 finish here last year due to incidents, though.
With Erik Jones ($7,200) now at a significantly salary figure, my favorite value play might be Brad Keselowski ($6,500). RFK Racing ran well at Richmond -- a shorter track with heavier tire falloff. Even though it was in better equipment, Keselowski has 9 top-10 finishes in his last 10 Darlington appearances, including a 2018 win. He's a veteran that can save tires.
Cole Custer ($5,000) has finished either first or second in his last two Xfinity Series appearances at Darlington, and he's finished 11th and 12th in his last two full races here. He was turned into the inside wall last spring, so hopefully, his low average finish keeps him under the radar.